Second Presbyterian, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Second Presbyterian, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA


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Mystery Worshipper: Noogalator
Church: Second Presbyterian
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
Date of visit: Sunday, 3 May 2009, 9:30am

The building

The congregation was organized in 1838, splitting from First Presbyterian Church over theological issues. The present building dates from 1959 and replaces an earlier church at a different location. It is beautiful and unmistakably Gothic, surrounded by beautiful grounds. Inside, the sanctuary is wide and spacious and leads the eye to focus on the communion table. Behind the communion table are tiered choir stalls, some of the organ pipes (the majority are in a rear gallery), and a large stained glass east window.

The church

Its first pastor was the noted abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote the powerful anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. They conduct a number of outreaches in the community as well as fellowship groups, classes and special events, all too numerous to mention. See their website for details. This is a large church with several traditional as well as non-traditional services each Sunday.

The neighborhood

Indianapolis is the capital of Indiana. As such, its economy is heavily dependent on state government but also on education, health care and finance. The city hosts numerous conventions and sporting events. Of these, perhaps the most well known is the annual Indianapolis 500 automobile race, the largest single-day sporting event in the world. The church is located in an upscale but not particularly fancy section of Meridian Street, which forms the east-west boundary for street addresses in the city.

The cast

The Revd David Berry, associate pastor for mission, led the service. He was assisted by the Revd Karen Lang, associate pastor for pastoral care. The preacher was the Revd Dr Lewis Galloway, senior pastor.

What was the name of the service?

Sunday Morning Worship.

How full was the building?

Probably about half full, although in a sanctuary that size it is hard to tell.

Did anyone welcome you personally?

Someone gave us a ride up to the church in a golf cart. The ushers were also really friendly. They were not shaking hands, though, because of the swine flu scare.

Was your pew comfortable?

Yes. Padded pews.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Reverent chatter. Some chatter before the service, but it was silenced when the prelude started.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

It was a warning about shaking hands and the swine flu scare.

What books did the congregation use during the service?

The Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, and Hymns, Psalms and Spiritual Songs.

What musical instruments were played?

Organ, an Æolian-Skinner opus dating from 1968 and refurbished by the Schantz Organ Company of Orrville, Ohio, in 2003.

Did anything distract you?

The choir marching forward during the processional and then retiring to the choir loft in the back right afterward.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

The worship was from the heart. While it was very traditional, anyone would have felt welcomed.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

17 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

9 – Dr Galloway commanded the attention of the congregation while speaking in a style that anyone could understand. He occasionally used some hand gestures, but not enough to distract me.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The sermon was basically about trusting in God and following where the Shepherd was leading.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

Wonderful music, wonderful preaching, wonderful building, wonderful people.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

No eucharist. I thought since it was the first Sunday of the month (when most Protestant denominations have the eucharist) they would be having the eucharist, but they did not.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

We could not stay, as we had another event we had to be at afterward.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

As I said, we weren't able to stay, but I don't drink coffee anyway.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

8 – I am a seminarian in a different tradition so I would not be able to make this my home church. But if it were not for that, this seemed like a comfortable and pleasant place to worship God.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?


What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

For the postlude, the organist played a fantasia on the hymn All Creatures of Our God and King. It was gorgeous.

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